Experts Explain: Disarming Syria Could Be a Nightmare

Could take years to secure chemical weapons, require many troops

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 11, 2013 8:52 AM CDT

(Newser) – As the world rallies around the idea of getting Syria to hand over its chemical weapons, weapons experts tell the New York Times there's much more than a "here you go" involved. "It’s a gargantuan task for the inspectors to mothball production, install padlocks, inventory the bulk agent as well as the munitions," says Amy Smithson, who warns that we should "beware" the "deceptively attractive" deal. And after managing to inspect a far-reaching web of factories, bunkers, and storage facilities (the Los Angeles Times notes that we're aware of about 40 chemical sites), "a lot of it has to be destroyed—in a war zone," says Smithson; that could take years.

The LAT also reports there's a "considerable risk" the chemicals could leak while being dismantled. And that process won't just be difficult: It will almost certainly require boots on the ground. "You have to have layers of security" for the inspectors dispatched there, says a former UN weapons inspector. "We're not talking about just putting someone at the gate." One Pentagon study estimates some 75,000 troops would be required. And those soldiers may have to battle rebel forces, some of whom would like the weapons for themselves. "I suspect some casualties would be unavoidable," says a former chemical warfare expert with the British army. There's also the possibility that Assad won't show his full hand. "I worry about that," says a former UN weapons inspector. "How do you verify that all Syrian weapons are known and under control?"

A sing is burns during a march against US intervention in Syria in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
A sing is burns during a march against US intervention in Syria in Buenos Aires, Argentina.   (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
Syrian flags.
Syrian flags.   (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
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